New start for Hawks at NCAA's as they advance to Saturday
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana - Sometimes all it takes is a new day to change an entire perspective.
Armed with the knowledge that Thursday’s qualifying struggles were firmly behind it, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore won its final two qualifying matches at the NCAA Championship against Stephen F. Austin and Arkansas State to earn the No. 7 seed for Friday’s bracket play.
“We started the week and we said the first day was just a practice day and if it doesn’t work then you do the opposite the next day,” head Bandy said. “Even though we were really frustrated, we took our evening and we got back at it.”
The Hawks (88-44) started the evening with a close 4-2 loss to Vanderbilt and then eliminated Stephen F. Austin 4-3 showing a resilience that coach Kayla Bandy always knew they were capable of.
“It comes down to shot-making, hitting the head pin and making the spare and we did it all day,” Bandy said. “The difference between today and yesterday was that today we were lined up, we could make adjustments off our first shots because we were making good shots. Yesterday we were making atrocious shots, so we couldn’t get any data from it.”
Eastern Shore now must prepare for a 9:30 a.m. eastern matchup with Nebraska on Saturday morning. The loser will be eliminated.
“Our look on the fresh (oil) is good, so I’m feeling O.K. going into tomorrow knowing that we are competitive on the fresh,” Bandy said. “We showed that today with a +80 (pins) combined over the first 2 (Baker) matches.”
After plowing through the morning, the Hawks had a two-hour break before returning to the Raising Cane’s River Center for evening competition.
The Hawks jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a 208-180 win against Vanderbilt, but dropped games 2 (213-186) and 3 (199-187) before knotting it up 2-2 with a 201-169 victory.
From there, it was a 201-189 loss followed by a 235-181 loss and a 4-2 final.
“I told the girls that we lost the match, but we were at least making shots,” Bandy said. “And we were lined up and we had good ball motion and all was well because we knew where we were going the next few matches.”
Things started off tough against Stephen F. Austin with a 219-189 loss, but recovered in the second game as Alexandra Hernandez (Maracaibo, Venezuela) put up a big strike in the ninth frame and Thashaina Seraus (Oranjestad, Aruba) closed it out with two more in the 10th for a 190-164 win and a 1-1 tie.
The Ladyjacks kept the Hawks faithful on the edge of their seats with a 213-212 win to take a 2-1 lead. The Hawks put up a completely clean game in No. 4 including a nifty split pickup by freshman Brigitte Jacobs (Freeport, Illinois) in the second frame and tied it up 2-2 with a 207-191 win.
Game 5 came down to the anchors with the scored ties entering the 10th frame following a pair of opens in nine. The Ladyjacks pulled it out 190-180 after striking out and took a 3-2 lead to put the pressure on The Shore.
But nobody was ready for the competition to end for the Hawks as they grabbed a 224-182 win to force a seventh game.
Eastern Shore used back-to-back-to-back strikes by Melanie Copey (Ontario, New York). Hernandez and Seraus in frames 3-5 to get out to an early lead and held off Stephen F. Austin 207-169 to move on.
The Hawks opened play on Friday morning with a 1008-997 win against Arkansas State to improve to 1-5. It was a far cry from Thursday when the team failed to score higher than 926 in five matches and averaged a 902.2.
“Our lineup is deep, but sometimes I can make changes faster than they need to be made,” Bandy said. “Today I went into it thinking I needed to give them a chance and let them get settled into making good shots. Sometimes when your coach leaves you in there and shows you that they believe in you for that one extra shot, it is the difference it takes to make better shots for the balance of the tournament.”
Hernandez started slow against the Red Wolves, leaving a couple of opens, but Bandy resisted the urge to pull her too early. She responded with a 169 after getting on track, then went onto a 190 against Stephen F. Austin — and to make big timely shots in Baker play in the evening.
“Alexandra wasn’t making the best shots, but she struck when we needed her to,” Bandy said. On Alexandra’s worst day, she’s still competitive with the best of them.”
In the morning’s second match, the Hawks rolled to a 1073-916 win against Stephen F. Austin, where they placed three players over 200 in the same match for the first time this week. Copey had the Hawks’ highest score of seven matches with a 248 against the Ladyjacks. Seraus finished with a 224 and Cayla Hicks (Salem, Virginia) put up a 225.
Seraus finished in ninth place individually with a 210.6 average over seven traditional team games. Copey’s big numbers in the final match gave her a 202.7 average (15th).
Saturday’s morning matches are being live streamed on the NCAA website at http://www.ncaa.com/liveschedule/2017/04/15.
The NCAA Championship final will air live on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. eastern.
Eastern Shore hasn’t been to the NCAA Championships since 2014, when it finished third behind San Houston State and Nebraska.
The Hawks have won the NCAA Championship three times: 2008, 2011 and 2012. The program also boasts two USBC Intercollegiate Team Championships: 2011 and 2013.
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